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Not Just for Chewing: Aluminum Foil in Film
by Angela Mac

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Children don't understand how truly diabolical the government can be.

Children don't understand how truly diabolical the government can be.
There exists a sexual fetish centered on the use of cellophane. While it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the meat of this column, cling wrap deviance did have a hand in the birth of this week's Catharsis edition.

Late one night, while poking around the hundred hours of clutter in the DVR, I happened upon Tobe Hooper's second MASTERS OF HORROR offering (THE DAMNED THING), starring Sean Patrick Flannery. That girlie giddy which surfaces when the words "Sean," "Patrick," and "Flannery" flash across the screen was ultimately dampened by a god-awful cgi monster near the film's end. Why Mr. Flannery's films never end with the man shirtless, splayed on a silken bed, amid the sensual flicker of candlelight, while reading a downright debaucherous brand of poetry is anyone's wonder if that fanciful scene had been THE DAMNED THING's grand finale, I would've been ushered off to sleep with the sweetest of dreams in tow, rather than rifling through the fridge for a three am snack (so, technically, Sean Patrick Flannery is partially to blame for the girth of my ass).

So, there I was, peeling back pink cellophane and forking out some spinach manicotti, when I began to wonder how anyone could be excited with their nude body encased within layers of cling wrap; which led me to wonder how Flannery would look wearing only cellophane and a smile (Signs Point to: Very Good); which stumbled onto a tangent of how many times actors have appeared, wrapped in only cellophane, on film.

Couldn't think of any.

The closest I could get was Ted Raimi in aluminum foil.

"Aluminum foil. Hmm. Flannery would look good in that, too. Hell, that
horrid, CGI atrocity would've looked better in aluminum foil."


"That could be a column!"

The Innovative Everyman is More Impressive than the Brilliant Rain Man

"... looked like the props were slapped together with tin foil."

We've all said it -- usually referencing not-so-groundbreaking sci-fi films such as MISSION MARS whose flying saucers are suspiciously both silver and a bit... crinkly. However, while we make such derogatory judgments, I don't feel we're entirely bitter towards cheap special effects. Spying the fishing line supporting a dangling UFO is akin to watching a bungling magician.

There's Houdini, and then there's the traveling escape artist who puts on demonstrations at high schools. When I saw one such performance, not a soul in the audience was gasping, "How'd he do that?!" His shoulder emitted a discernable *pop*, then drooped, his face scrunching in agony... the trick was fairly obvious.

All of which immediately led to repeated attempts at dislocating my own shoulder. I mean, if he could do it. Sure,
Who needs a wardrobe department?

Who needs a wardrobe department?
Houdini was the brass ring floating a mile above my head, but in spying the trick, I was assured a firm footing on the first step up.

I'm sure this is just the kind of watch-it-then-do-it mentality that fuels the fire beneath any card carrying member of MOFO (Mothers Offended by Film's... eh... Offences? Ostentations? Otherworldly offerings?). But let's side step all that unpleasant business (because even attempting to dislocate one's own shoulder smarts pretty badly. I recommend against it), and place this celluloid inspiration in a more pleasant setting: Starlog's now deceased Gorezone Magazine.

Gorezone was a staple of my younger years, largely due to the Play Along At Home section. Each issue featured a how-to on intriguing make up effects in everything from BATMAN RETURNS to BODY MELT (at least... I think they covered BODY MELT... it's, admittedly, been a while). When I was perfecting coagulated blood recipes which could easily be removed from clothing, I wasn't pondering how to best secure a budget once Lady Luck saw fit to grace me with a camcorder. Rather, I was scheming of all the things I could accomplish without a budget.

It was also Gorezone who certifiably slammed ARMY OF DARKNESS which is of interest only because Sam Raimi Land is just where I was headed with this tangent. There is a wonderfully poignant interview with Raimi where he explains some of the method behind the EVIL DEAD madness: the boys were working with what they had. In the interview, he says something to the effect of: it's a world of difference when there's no budget. Necessity breeds invention, so to speak. There has to be unkempt, innovative camera angles when a director can't just order the camera crane up twenty feet.

There's probably any number of cgi junkies out there who can see where I'm going with this, and have their blue-screened-in soapboxes at the ready ready to tell me all about the cost sparing wonder of computerized effects.

But it wouldn't do them any good.

Because here's my beef: cgi is simply... cold.

Cozied in with the devil, among the details, is where you find the romance. Robert DeNiro navigating tin foil-looking air ducts, and a microwave which houses pure evil, are among the great many come-hither details that mandate I must pony up to view any Gilliam project. Yes, I want to see a good story, and yes, good acting to bring the good story to life but I also want to see thought. I want a director's thoughts to be as tangible as fishing wire, a thousand times more than I want to see a director's thoughts as dictated to the
Seriously, who needs a wardrobe department?

Seriously, who needs a wardrobe department?
storyboard artist, as interpreted by the CGI team leader, as delegated to the unlucky sap of an intern.

In film, as in life, we audiences must be careful what we wish for. A demand of better effects ushers in better effects but to what end? Twenty years from now, do we really only want to choose between tear jerkers, slap-stick or CGI?

To look to the future, we need only look to YouTube and the like which, from this in-the-boonies, stuck with dial-up gal's perspective (donations gladly accepted for a laptop with wifi ability), the online collection of burgeoning filmmakers seems to be balanced between those who can expertly scribble down stories which don't demand any special effects, and Fun With Photoshop entries.

Where's the love?

Do Your Job

A filmmaker needn't know a USB port from a hole in their head. I'd hate to see a perspective filmmaker's dream wither due to an inability to master their home computer, coupled with a lack of interest to commit the book "I Never Called it Rape" to film.

During a recent telephone geek-a-thon, Zombieboy (who is not going to be mentioned in the next column, even if I should accidentally mangle all my fingers in a wringer washer between now and then, and he magnanimously types the column for me) gushed over a tidbit revealed in the "Making Of" portion of the MISERY disc: when the Number One fan sets Caan's typewritten labors ablaze, the floating embers were controlled by hidden grips with fishing rods. "But now," Z mused, "they'd probably just digital it in during post."

And they would, too!

So, what are we going to do about this?

I have a suggestion.

I'm going to add to the tradition of making certain months into appreciation holidays. For the remaining 20-some days of this month, I say, "March is OFFICIALLY Aluminum Foil in Film Month!" Let's pepper the world with the seed of inspiration. Together, we can make the ROLY POLY OLIE addicted children of today believe magic can be created with just a box of aluminum foil and grandpa's fishing rod.

Conversation Points for Aluminum Foil in Film

  • Those tin foil hats in SIGNS would've done the kids about as much good as avoiding water phobic aliens by residing on a planet that is 80% H20. In a study conducted by some MIT gear heads, not only does an aluminum foil helmet not thwart invasive signals -- startlingly enough, they actually magnify the reception of certain radio signals.

    Certain, government allocated, radio signals.


  • LOST fans can entertain their friends with hypotheses connecting tin foil hats to the scientific
    Reynold might just give Martha a run for the money.

    Reynold might just give Martha a run for the money.
    principles of the Faraday Cage to the new LOST arrival, Daniel Faraday. While some might profess the aluminum foil helmet to be an interpretation of the Faraday cage, it is not a well-functioning one. See, if you take an AM radio, wrap it in aluminum foil, then place it all beneath a metal bucket, you'll find that radiation emissions (the radio signal) is significantly reduced. Those who believe this principle manifested in foil head garnish would prevent covert government thought-spying are wrong. A foil hat does not completely cover the body and is not grounded. By only covering of the head, the foil would, again, actually serve to amplify the results.

    ... and how does the Island figure into all this?

Gorezone Might Be Gone, but You Can Still Play Along at Home

Throw a "March is Aluminum Foil Madness" party!

  • Craft twenty flying saucers from aluminum foil, and utilize fishing wire to create the illusion of a miniature alien invasion right in your living room!
  • Wadded up tin foil can make for great fun, as the namesake of an indoor or outdoor "Meteor Rock Hunt."
  • Get the first season of PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE, and instead of scrap booking or a baked good exchange, have all participants begin their very own Foil Ball.
  • Make the party private and fashionable! Just as Ted Raimi was able to keep maniacal surgeons at bay in LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY, you, too, can prevent the alien rays from eavesdropping on the fun. A few boxes of aluminum foil, with some strategically-placed invisible tape makes for fabulously shiny wallpaper. While costumes may be optional, aluminum foil armor should be mandated who knows what crime filled streets your guests may have to traverse?

    Best of all, Aluminum Foil in Film Month would be a prime opportunity to redo previously terribly done CGI with cheap materials, and a better end.

    I'd be curious to see scenes such as the anticlimactic bat/wolf fight from VAN HELSING done old school, but there are a great many lists online of CGI done badly (most of them beginning with HULK). Here's a list to get small scale remake ambitions fired up (the writer's criteria was very well based).

    I'm not implying filmmakers of the future should be sporting a George Hamilton tan from all the hours they spend outside, away from their computer. However, frequent exposure to the sun supports Vitamin D production, so would help to prevent brittle and misshapen bones in later years.

    Incidentally, aluminum foil can be used to focus rays of sunlight.

    So, future filmmakers raid your mother's pantry, and make me proud.

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Celluloid Catharsis
Every other Saturday

See what falls out when a redheaded film junkie bangs her head on the desk.

Other Columns
Other columns by Angela Mac:

Big Screen, Little People

Fetish Lovers Unlock Secret Joy in Film

Roller Skating: Not Just for Porn Stars

How Much is that Actor in the Window?

Time Travels for the Resolution Impaired

All Columns

Angela Mac
Coming Soon.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Angela Mac by clicking here.

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